Book of

The House of the Stag, by Kage Baker

A complex fantasy of near-Pratchettian wit and commentary. The rules for Epic Drama are especially funny and meta.

As I was reading, I dithered about whether I was going to be able to recommend this book, because of something in the early chapters that really got under my skin. In the event I do recommend it for its insight and humor, but I shall tell you about my issues with the book, nonetheless.

The Yendri, the green forest people introduced in the early chapters, are said to have lived “without tools” before the Rider invasion. I rolled my eyes, because yeah, right — no humans live without tools. But it’s fantasy, so I moved on.

But then as the Yendri culture changes, every technological innovation or discovery is attributed to a man. Ranwyr invents using gourds for water and making baskets. An unnamed man invents boats and paddles. At one point we see the girl of the protagonist family making thread, but we later learn that she was taught the skill by a man. The mother is stirring “something” when her sons have to go out to look for food — as though they are a foraging culture where the women don’t do any of the food-collecting. My inner anthropologist says, “wtf? what happened to women’s work?”

After reading a lot of fanfiction, I often find that reading profic is confusing, because it’s hard for me to tell if things are supposed to be significant. Is Baker being subtly ironic, showing how even the most obvious of women’s work can be invisible when men are telling the stories? Is she making some sort of point by comparison to Jean Auel, whose heroines are responsible for discovering everything from fire to makeup? Or is this nothing but sloppy blindness or blind sloppiness, based on a Flintstones level of anthropological understanding?

I really can’t tell — one of the things about fanfiction is that it is much easier to tell what community a writer is writing for, and thus to figure out what is likely to be significant.

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